Brought to you by Hidden Track Theatre and showing as part of Festival of Debate, Standard:Elite is an interactive theatre show exploring the themes of class and social mobility. We sat down for a natter with the show’s writer, Elliott Hughes, to find out more about this innovative performance and how it tackles these tricky topics.
Describe Standard:Elite in three words.
Accessible, irreverent and fun.
Why did you choose class and social mobility as the central topics for Standard:Elite?
As a nation we don’t talk about class.
It isn’t polite, it’s uncomfortable, and there aren’t many easy answers.
There’s a belief that if you work hard enough, and put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. An idea that the people at the top are there because they worked the hardest, and deserve to be the most successful, while the people at the bottom are the feckless scroungers who just didn’t put the effort in.
We wanted to put this idea to the test. We wanted to look at the ways people are expected to play the game and rise through the ranks, even when the game is rigged against them.
Our ambition with this show is to bring class to the table – a subject that is increasingly relevant to wider political issues in 2017 – in a way that is playful, non-confrontational, and above all fun.
Do you think theatre makers are in a unique position to tackle difficult social issues?
The exciting thing about theatre is that your audience are all present and together in the same room, sharing the same experience, and going through the story at the same pace.
Stories can be very useful for exploring social issues, as they allow us to imagine another person’s situation by gently leading us through a narrative and seeing the world through their eyes – rather than hitting people over the head with high-minded political rhetoric, which can feel alienating, and take away that personal human context.
With this piece, the audience take an active role in the story, and have to pay close attention to the people around them. Sometimes you’ll be playing games and competing against each other, sometimes you’ll have to make moral choices on where the story should go, and the whole show changes based on your decision. Everyone enters on a level playing field, but by the end some will be put in positions of power, and some will have power stripped away from them. Everyone will have to consider each side of the situation, and become complicit in the action.
Interactive theatre allows us to consider and engage with all the other living, breathing people in the room, which we think gives a unique opportunity for debate and discussion.
What do you hope audience members will take away from the performance?
We hope everyone will enjoy themselves, and we hope to get people talking.
This piece is an exploration of privilege, looking at the advantages and disadvantages we’re given through our lives, and how they help shape our opportunities. It’s a show looking at the ways we’re meant to succeed, and how limited some people’s options can actually be.
But mainly, this is a piece about bringing people together through games and storytelling. It doesn’t hit people over the head with its message, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It asks its audience to consider certain issues, but it also asks them to fling newspaper at each other because a talking duck told them to.
Why should people come to see Standard:Elite?
The act of going to the theatre in and of itself can be very daunting, and brings certain pressures and expectations with it – interactive theatre even more so.
We wanted to make something that was bright, funny, imaginative, and would appeal to anyone – especially those who think that theatre is ‘not for them’.
If you want to experience a new kind of theatre, where you can play games, throw things, and change the outcome of the show, come and see Standard:Elite.
If the idea of being asked to do stuff makes you cringe, and you just want to sit and watch a story unfold, come and see Standard:Elite. All the interactive elements are optional, you will never be asked to do something you don’t want to do, and there’s plenty to see without getting involved.
Also: there’s free cake.